University City: African Dance Troupe Upholds Ancient Tradition with Song and Dance

African Rhythms Drum and Dance Troupe perfroming at the Iron Gate Theatre.
African Rhythms Drum and Dance Troupe performed at the Iron Gate Theatre.

The historic Iron Gate Theatre housed a special two-night event honoring the tradition of African dance. The event organizer, the African Rhythms Drum and Dance Troupe, has been performing at the University of Pennsylvania for the past 19 years, including 28 performances.

Dancing to the sounds of African percussion, the theme of the night was ĺbéré: Tales by a Djeli, where the stories of African oral traditions are told through a song and dance performance. According to the show’s program, “African Rhythms, AR, is still Penn’s only African dance troupe and is one of the preeminent university dance troupes in the region.”

While the troupe draws its dance influence from West African and Afro-Cuban cultures, third-year member Yaadira Brown said the group is as diverse as ever. “In the past, AR has been dominated by students who identified as black, but now in 2012, we have members who are of Hispanic, Caucasian, West African and Arab descent.”

Brown also said that the troupe has a strong and positive effect on the members and the community as a whole. “When we perform they can understand the history and story behind the dance and they see how well we connect with one another on stage.”

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